“All of these subjects in the Ramayana seem very pitiable, and they may appear to be very distressing to the reciter, but actually this is not so. Otherwise, why would Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Ramachandra, read daily about the activities of Lord Ramachandra, as described in the Ramayana itself?” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 34)
Friend1: Hanuman is one of the more interesting deities of the Vedic tradition. Wouldn’t you say?
Friend2: That sounds like something an outsider would say, like a professor observing from afar, not really understanding the culture.
Friend1: Why do you say that?
Friend2: There is a comparison made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that is appropriate here. Picture the bottle of honey. Now imagine trying to enjoy the honey by licking the bottle.
Friend1: Not opening it?
Friend2: Right. Obviously you’re not getting the full taste. There is potential there. You understand that there is sweetness available, but you’re not reaching it. In the same way, observing Vedic culture from afar, studying this deity and that, doesn’t do much for the individual.
Friend1: Still, at least there is some interest. You would have to grant that.
Friend1: Anyway, to the outsider Hanuman would be very interesting. The first thing is that he’s a monkey.
Friend2: A Vanara in Sanskrit. This is a forest-dweller, but yes, you could say monkey. There are other Sanskrit words used in the Ramayana that essentially mean that.
Friend1: Such as?
Friend2: Kapi. Hari.
Friend1: Okay. And then there’s the picture of him holding the mountain in his hand.
Friend2: To save Lakshmana from wounds inflicted on the battlefield. Hanuman got the task of finding a specific medicinal herb that was located on the mountain. He couldn’t find it exactly, so he uprooted the entire area and brought it with him.
Friend1: A talking monkey who flies through the air holding a mountain in his hand.
Friend2: And don’t forget his monkey friends who help to build a bridge made of floating rocks.
Friend1: There you go. Now we have the complete picture. You can obviously see why people would be interested in him. I’m not going to discuss the issue of mythology, since that is a topic worthy of a lengthy discussion.
Friend1: As there are so many interesting aspects to this dedicated servant of Shri Rama, the warrior avatara of God, what do you think the lasting legacy is?
Friend2: Of Hanuman or the events he was involved in?
Friend2: Hmm. There is a slight flaw in your premise.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: When discussing legacy, typically the subject is retired from the field. We talk about the legacy of an old football player, who no longer plays. Legacy itself means something passed down from an ancestor.
Friend1: For software it describes something that has been improved upon but is difficult to replace since so many people use it.
Friend2: Any way you slice it, the connotation is something old. The events of the Ramayana took place millions of years ago, so in that sense the story has been passed on to future generations. Yet Hanuman is still around today. That was the boon given to him by Rama.
Friend1: I heard about that. There are other people who stay around until the end, too.
Friend2: Vyasadeva. Vibhishana. In the Mahabharata there is the story of the sage Markandeya remaining on earth through the end, the time of destruction. It is not something so extraordinary, though to those unfamiliar with the spiritual science it is difficult to believe.
Friend1: Okay, so let’s just rephrase the question. What is the legacy of Hanuman, as he is known from the Ramayana?
Friend2: That is subjective and also multi-faceted. He is known as the greatest devotee of Rama. One part of the legacy is that devotion triumphs over non-devotion. Good eventually wins out over evil.
Friend1: The evil character, who was a rapist, a thief, and a murderer, eventually got his just due in the end. Ravana saw death himself in the form of Rama, and Hanuman contributed greatly to the arrival of that death.
Friend2: One thing I would say is that Hanuman dispels the myth of atheism. From his character alone you can see the proof of God. They say that the devotee is a symbol of sacrifice. No one has sacrificed more than Hanuman in service to the Divine. If you take various snapshots in time of that service, it looks like evil wins.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: Success came in the end, but the road was not easy. There were bumps along the way. Hanuman persevered. His success was guaranteed since he had God’s blessing. Hanuman also proves that God is a person. He dispels the myth that the Divine is ultimately impersonal. That myth is intentionally spread to this day by even so called yogis.
Friend1: Why would they do that?
Friend2: If they acknowledge that God is a person, it means that they have to serve Him. If everyone is God, then the individual can remain focused within. It’s a form of cheating, for sure. To me Hanuman’s legacy is that devotion, bhakti, is the purpose in life. Great strength can be acquired, but its use is more important. Hanuman’s strength is used to please Rama. A wonderful gift coming from the Divine used for the pleasure of the benefactor. That is the secret to happiness.
Traveling to Lanka foreign land,
Flying through air with mountain in hand.
With monkey friends bridge making,
With courage Rama’s ring with him taking.
Shri Hanuman so many things has done,
How to choose lasting legacy one?
Superiority of devotion’s path shown,
That happiness from God’s grace alone.